I'm loath to mention the name of the Orange Traitor and the President of Ukraine in the same post. It forces one to confront the degeneration of our country(men). Early this morning, a quartet of Washington Post reporters wrote about the difficulty of imagining a reasonable off-ramp for Putin in Ukraine. The idea of a quick military victory evaporated once the Ukrainians decided to defend their country... and turned out to be good at it. "The situation," they wrote, "seems destined to result in an even deadlier and more protracted slog, wreaking devastation on Ukraine and causing a massive humanitarian crisis."
Putin seems to feel "boxed in. When he announced the invasion, Putin publicly stated that his goal is to 'denazify' and 'demilitarize' Ukraine-- meaning that anything short of changing the Ukrainian government will be interpreted as a loss by his inner circle. The more Russia suffers economically, many experts and officials say, the more he is likely to feel the need to double down and bring home a victory." Now he apparently sees the devastating sanctions not so much as "designed to change his behavior in Ukraine, but as an effort to topple his government in Russia."
Samuel Charap, a senior political scientist at the Rand Corporation said "If Putin believes he is in a fight for the survival of his regime, he is likely to be willing to escalate this-- both within Ukraine and beyond, because the stakes become existential. When you are fighting for your life, maybe literally, or certainly for the survival of your regime, which he conflates with the survival of the country, you could go to extreme lengths."
The current U.S. strategy, according to senior Biden administration officials, is to ensure that the economic costs for Russia are severe and sustainable, as well as to continue supporting Ukraine militarily in its effort to inflict as many defeats on Russia as possible.
But U.S. military assistance remains limited, as Biden has made clear the United States is unwilling to get into a direct confrontation with Russia, a fellow nuclear power. Biden has said that he will not put any U.S. combat troops on the ground in Ukraine and he and other NATO leaders have resisted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s pleas to enforce a no-fly zone over the country.
..."The way this conflict will end is when Putin realizes that this adventure has put his own leadership standing at risk with his own military, with his own people, that he is hemorrhaging the lives of the people of Russia, the army of Russia and their future to his own vain ambition. And he will have to change course or the Russian people will take matters into their own hands,” Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, the No. 3 official at the State Department, testified on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. “But from the U.S. perspective, the endgame is the strategic defeat of President Putin in this adventure."
I spoke with a member of Congress yesterday who doesn't want to be identified-- and I can understand why. She opposes sending arms to Ukraine... and for reasons that shocked me. She started out "reasonably" enough when I suggested that instead of old Polish MIGs-- which the Biden administration has already nixed-- we give the Ukrainians the kinds of state of the art planes we give Israel. She said the Russians would shoot one down and reverse engineer it to get the stealth technology. Then she veered into crazyland: the Ukrainian airforce isn't fighting and there are no military casualties on either side. My jaw dropped. Was she not paying attention? We argued. I read her the stats from the U.S. government; she rejected them. She said if Russian soldiers were dying, it was because they are drunk and having accidents, not because Ukrainians are killing them! Wow! I could barely understand how Biden could refuse the MIGs deal even though the Poles are a lot closer to Russia than the U.S. is-- not to mention Poland's long history of being attacked and dismembered by Russia. And they have the guts and we don't?
NBC News reported this morning on how the MIGs-for-Ukraine deal broke down. A Defense Department spokesman said "We do not support the transfer of additional fighter aircraft to the Ukrainian air force at this time and therefore have no desire to see them in our custody, either." Biden sent Kamala Harris to smooth things over with the Poles, which she's trying to do using the only technique she has in her toolkit: bullshit. "The United States and Poland," she lied embarrassingly and ridiculously, "are united in both what we have done and are prepared to do to help Ukraine and the Ukrainian people." Maybe American voters should start looking for leaders to vote for who have leadership capabilities.
...[T]he debacle over the fighter jets hangs conspicuously over Harris' visit. Senior Biden administration officials briefing reporters before she left Washington said that while Harris would be likely to leave the specifics to military officials to sort out, she would, indeed, discuss with the Poles how the two countries can better coordinate their security assistance to Ukraine.
The U.S. for days had tiptoed around the question of whether Warsaw should send fighter jets to Ukraine, calling it a decision for the Polish government to make, while floating the possibility that the U.S. could “backfill” the loss of planes in Poland’s fleet by providing it with U.S. aircraft.
Then came the surprise announcement that Poland planned to put its aging MiG planes in U.S. custody in Germany, presumably to be transferred to Ukraine by the U.S. The Biden administration has warned that such a move could perceived by Putin as concrete U.S. military involvement in the war, in addition to endangering U.S. pilots if they were the ones flying them into Ukraine, where the Russians might shoot them down.
The Biden administration said Poland never consulted the U.S. before it made the announcement.
“I think the Poles got carried away with themselves. They want to be helpful,” Stephen Mull, a former U.S. ambassador to Poland, said in an interview. “Rather than waiting to make sure that all this was tied up, they just went ahead and announced it to get headlines for themselves that they’re willing to help while putting all the risk to the U.S.”
Mull, who was ambassador during the Obama administration, said Harris would probably avoid directly criticizing Poland for the diplomatic ambush, but he predicted that she would try to convey the need to avoid surprises given the gravity of the crisis.
“We need to be coordinating, very, very closely, to make sure that we don’t create an impression of lack of unity or lack of coordination in the alliance,” he said.
Sending fighter planes to help repel Russia’s military has been a top request of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has described it as the next-best option after the U.S. and NATO both rejected his calls to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
The U.S. ambassador to NATO, Julie Smith, said Poland could have opted for a plan to transfer the planes to Ukraine directly but “proposed a different path.”
“The United States, the Pentagon specifically, said they thought that particular proposal was untenable,” Smith said Wednesday on MSNBC. “But again, it comes from the best of intentions.”
The Ukrainians are fighting for their survival and have no interest in the language of political bullshit spoken by careerist American hack pols like Kamala Harris. As the Washington Post reported a couple of days ago, Zelensky shamed the West into going as far as they have and is now begging for direct military intervention that Western politicians are too scared-- some would say craven-- to provide. Is NATO just a gaggle of Neville Chamberlains, happy to given away the Sudenetenland for a fake peace?
"As Russia’s assault on Ukraine enters its second week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has shifted from rallying world leaders-- who have levied historic economic and financial sanctions against Russia-- to shaming them for not doing more to hasten the war’s end," wrote a trio of Post reporters.
On Wednesday, Zelensky shared with his 5.1 million Twitter followers video of what Ukrainian officials said was the aftermath of a Russian military strike on a maternity hospital in Mariupol.
“People, children are under the wreckage. Atrocity!” Zelensky wrote. “How much longer will the world be an accomplice ignoring terror? Close the sky right now!” he demanded, repeating his call for Western nations to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine. The United States and other NATO members have refused, saying that would risk putting them in direct conflict with Russia and igniting a wider war.
“Stop the killings!” Zelensky demanded. “You have power but you seem to be losing humanity.”
The actor-turned-president now finds himself playing to two audiences. First, there are the besieged citizens of Ukraine, whom the president has rallied into a makeshift civil defense force, crafting molotov cocktails and barricading city streets in anticipation of tens of thousands of Russian troops.
But the second audience, fellow world leaders, has resisted Zelensky’s demands for direct military intervention. Despite his newfound global influence and personal rapport with President Biden, who has spoken to Zelensky a dozen times since taking office in January 2021, U.S. and European leaders remain cautiously on the sidelines, prepared to ship antitank and antiaircraft weapons to Ukraine’s military but not to step much further into the conflict by sending fighter jets, which Zelensky has pleaded for this week.
“Together we must return courage to some Western leaders, so that they do what they had to do on the first day of the invasion: Either close the Ukrainian sky from Russian missiles and bombs or give us fighter jets so we do everything ourselves,” Zelensky said Wednesday.
Zelensky blasted the White House for not helping Ukraine obtain MiG-29 fighter planes that the Polish government offered to send to a U.S. air base in Germany. The United States has said flying the jets from a NATO country to attack Russian forces risked pulling the alliance into a war. Moscow has warned that any country hosting Ukraine’s military aircraft would be considered a party to the armed conflict.
Poland’s proposal appeared intended to shift the responsibility for delivering the aircraft — and risking a potential Russian military retaliation — to the United States. As a result, the Pentagon said the plan was not “tenable.”
Zelensky has evinced little patience for such caution and portrayed the refusal as a diplomatic game that puts Ukraine’s existence at risk.
“This is not ping-pong! This is about human lives!” he said in a video statement Wednesday ahead of Vice President Harris’s visit to Poland. “We ask once again: Solve it faster. Do not shift the responsibility. Send us planes.”
In an address Tuesday to the British Parliament, Zelensky, wearing what has become his trademark military-green T-shirt, vowed, “We will fight in the forests, in the fields, on the shores, in the streets.” The deliberate Churchillian tones resonated with lawmakers, who gave him a standing ovation.
But after Zelensky repeated his calls for the no-fly zone, Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised only that sanctions on Russia, as well as humanitarian and military aid, would continue from Britain “until Ukraine is free.”
Speaking to reporters in Washington on Wednesday, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss tried to put the planes issue to rest. “The best way to defend” Ukraine, she said, is “with antitank weapons and anti-air weapons.”
Still unclear is exactly why NATO members think handing lethal weapons to Ukrainian forces to kill Russian soldiers is a step short of giving Ukrainian pilots the planes to bomb them.
The telegenic and combative qualities that made Zelensky an unexpected symbol of resistance have also been a source of discomfort for Western leaders.
More on that later today. I have something more to say about it